Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Do Presbyterian churches have campaniles?

I had never considered that important question until today.

I was at lunch with Anne and her two sisters.  And we all are culturally Presbyterian.

Anne and her sisters customarily have a Christmas get-together in between Xmas and New Year.  The day itself is reserved for other family committments.  Anne, for instance, went to TWO different occasions organized by two of her sons.  And I of course had a nice nap at Suz & Russell's place on the big day.

So we were gathered around the table at Anne's place eating some excellent coq au vin that Anne had prepared as a Xmas lunch.  Because Presbyterianism is hostile to alcohol, however, Anne had subsituted for the "Vin".  Instead she used stock, onions etc and the result was first class.  It actually had umami in my view. Which is high praise.  I haunt Japanese restaurants because of their mastery of umami.  And I did in fact that very night visit the "Sunny Doll" for my fix of Chicken Teriyaki Don.

But anyway Merle noted that they do have a bell-tower at the Presbo church she goes to at Wynnum -- but she also remarked that they just play recorded stuff from it.  Shameful!  A bell tower should have bells in it!   But then Anne remarked that our Ann St church has no campanile at all and hence no bells.

So my conclusion is that the old "Wee free" tradition (as at Ann St) is hostile to bells but maybe Church of Scotland is more flexible.  Old questions of theology and exegesis still have some influence.  I am delighted to know about that stuff.

I really like Wee Free (Free Church of Scotland) ways so I guess I am a born Puritan.  And in some ways I still live a Puritan life.  I live simply and give most of my money away, for instance. I have long ago given up teetotalling, however.

And when I used to go to the Ann St Church regularly (back in the 60s) I noted that there was a substantial British Israel sentiment in the congregation.  So when I hear Parry's magnificent setting of Blake's incomparable "Jerusalem". I know what that's all about.

Has the human imagination ever produced more magnificent and more memorable words than these?

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England's pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England's green & pleasant Land

And yet those wonderful words stem from a now-obscure and always way-out religious doctrine.  There can be no doubt that religion can create great art -- arguably the greatest art of all.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Job lives

The book of Job (pronounced "Jobe") in the Bible tells us about a Godly man who enjoys great prosperity until the Lord strikes him down with various plagues.  Why did the Lord do that?  To test Job's faith.  Job survives the test, never cursing God but remaining devout through all his trials and tribulations.  As a reward the Lord restores Job's health and prosperity and makes him more prosperous than ever.  It's an important story for Christians with many lessons in it.  It tells them not to question God even when misfortune strikes,  It assures us that good times will come again.

I think of Job when I think of Von.  Von was born wise and has made a string of good decisions that has given her an idyllic life in NZ.  So what has happened?  The Lord has struck her down with a minor but disabling ailment that she has not been able to throw off yet. No doubt she will throw it off in time but, like the story of Job, it tells us not to envy anyone because no-one knows what the future holds.  And Job tells Von not to despair and that good times will return.  I hope that is of some comfort to her.

Von was brought up with no religion in her life but there are some important truths in religion.  Although I have been an unbeliever for all of my adult life, I still get a lot out of reading my Bible.  Everybody should read at least the Gospels.  They are simple stories of great events that have resounded down the ages.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A banner weekend

Except that it was not a weekend.  But the festive season is like that. On Christmas Eve, Anne cooked me lamb cutlets with salad. A favourite meal. Then on Boxing Day night she cooked me T-bone steaks with Diane sauce  -- which is the best BBQ sauce you have ever tasted.  It's a bottled sauce made by Beerenberg in South Australia so you might be able to get it from Woolworths.  It's a definite gastronomic discovery.

The next day (Saturday 27th) we had big traditional breakfasts at  the Phams in Buranda, followed by very rich Punjabi Doda Burfis  from a local Indian grocer for lunch.  The grocery is a big one so we had a walk around looking with wonder  at their multitudinous but totally unfamiliar products.  I bought some chutney and some South Indian pickles to try out.

We then went to the local Aldi to pick up a few things that I needed but we of course ended up coming away with a lot more than that.  Aldi is like that. That evening we visited the New Sing Sing -- a nearby high quality Chinese/Vietnamese  restaurant -- for supper.  It was good, as usual.  I had lemongrass chicken, as I usually do, and Anne had Chicken Chow Mein with added cashews

I had the pickles on my lunchtime ham sandwich today.  It was not my idea of pickles so I will keep it as an accompaniment to curry.  It definitely has the taste of India

Doda Burfi slices

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas day

Today Christians celebrate something very implausible -- the incarnation -- when the great God over all poured himself into the body of a baby and subsequently lived a life as a normal human being.  It takes a lot to believe that and the whole thing was a matter of great dispute among the early Christians. Jesus himself did after all say: "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28).

But along came Athanasius' Egyptian doctrine of the Trinity to quell disputes and to make some  sense of it all:  The doctrine of three persons in the one God. It's not a doctrine mentioned anywhere in Christian scripture  -- as I often point out -- but perhaps it is needed to make sense of the implausible.  That we cannot hope to understand Godhead is after all a reasonable claim.

Partly at urging from Anne, I attended a service at my local branch of the Church of England yesterday evening: Holy Trinity Anglican Church Woolloongabba.  It's a nice-looking church, and well-maintained

To my amazement, the church was full with a good cross-section of people . I rather liked that as I see Christianity as a civilizing influence.  I thought initially that most came simply for the Xmas carols  -- which were promised and delivered -- but it seems I was wrong.  It was a Communion service and almost all of the congregation went forward to get the biscuit.

Rev. Paschke's  sermon was pedestrian, with God "rolling up his sleeves" rather a lot  -- an image I could not get with at all.  But one expects an Anglican sermon to be inoffensive junk.  I just went there for the carols.

Given my very fundamentalist early life, there was a lot more Popery in the service than I liked but I guess that I am a bit of a dinosaur there.  "Popery" is probably condemned only in Northern Ireland these days

Anyway, after the service, which finished about 8pm, Anne made me a dinner of grilled lamb cutlets and salad, one of my favourite foods.

And for lunch today I went out to the family gathering at Suz & Russell's place.  Because so many of us were interstate or abroad, there were only 9 adults and 2 littlies present but it was still a pleasant occasion. The littlies certainly made up in volume for what they lacked in numbers, with Dusty in particular giving an exhibition of  perpetual motion.

I woke up earlier than usual (for me) so went straight out to the house.  I was the first to arrive at around 8am.  Suz had declared it an open house so that was OK, though.  I was the first  to arrive. It gave me the chance of a few chats with Russ.  My early rising did catch up with me, however,  I napped on a verandah couch for most of the time between morning tea and lunch.

We had lots of morning-tea food followed at lunchtime by a big leg of ham which was well cooked by Russell, with potato salad.  For the morning-tea finger food, Davey brought along some "piggies in blankets" -- small sausages wrapped in puff pastry -- which I particularly liked.  I think I had at least 6 of them.  Puff pastry and sausages are both definite weaknesses of mine.  And for dessert we had one of Maureen's excellent pavlovas.   I talked mainly with Russell and Jenny.

Secret Santa got me 7 bottles of Clayton's, which must have involved a bit of scouting around.  I drink a lot of it so it will soon go down.

 It's a surprisingly satisfying drink, though now very much out of fashion. Davey helped by carrying it downstairs for me.  Suz & Russell's house is built on very sloping ground and that seems to have required a rather long and steep entry staircase.  The position of the house is very good, however.  It has native bush on one side so we ate our food looking out at a native Australian forest of gum trees.  Like most Australians, I like our gum trees.

I was the Secret Santa for Jenny but in my usual way I forgot to bring the present with me.  Everyone is used to me being "Mr Forgetful", however, so no-one was surprised.  Jenny will drop in  to my place to pick it up when she is next over my way.

We also played our usual present-grabbing game -- out of which I got a bottle of red wine that looks good.

Some amusing bits:

We had all recently seen two very widely circulated videos which show you how to fold a shirt and how to fold a Japanese present.

Maureen  is a folder from way back so said that her method was very similar to the Japanese method -- which Ken, being Ken, immediately disagreed with.  Maureen was not oppressed, though.  She promptly handed Ken some paper and told him to show how it should be done.  Ken had a short attempt and them gave up.  He declared  that you can know when a thing is wrong even if you yourself do not know the right way.  That produced some hilarity, though it is of course correct.

Then Davey put his foot in it.  He is inclined to large claims so  he claimed that he could do the shirt folding.  Again Maureen put him on the  spot.  She found a kiddy shirt and told him to fold it.  Dave did not do well initially but eventually got a result that we passed. We had a lot of laughs

A restorative nap after early rising

And there was a Christmas across the water in NZ too.  And lots of us sent presents in acknowledgement.  Von has a big pictorial recollection of it on her blog but I thought I might put up a pic of the presents I sent over.  They arrived in a parcel on Christmas Eve so that was good timing. Jenny packed and posted it for me.  There is a colourful trowel for Hannah's garden activities, plus a moneybox in the form of an old pillarbox plus a kiddy-size dustpan and brush.  Hannah likes to have her own things.

The deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner

In the wake of the two black deaths above, relations between American police and African-Americans have plummeted to a new low -- in part because of anti-police rhetoric from the likes of far-Leftist Bill de Blasio.  De Blasio has since tried to pull his horns in but the damage has been done.

Conservatives have cautiously exonerated the police involved in the deaths above but blacks have become fired up by the Leftist pot-stirring and two NYC police have now died as a result.  So I feel moved to say what little I can that might help the situation.

What I want to do here is to offer a couple of anecdotes in support of the view that civility towards the police will generally engender civility from the police.  When the Ferguson and NYC police were both confronted by two huge and un-co-operative blacks, the result was always going to be perilous but could have been much ameliorated by a more civil response from the blacks concerned.

My contact with American law enforcement is very minor but I do think my contact with the California Highway Patrol -- not exactly a much praised body of men  -- is instructive.  My contact occurred in the 1970s, when Jimmy Carter's reviled 55 mph speed limit still applied on American highways.  I was bowling along a Los Angeles freeway in my hired Ford Pinto at about the speed I would have used in Australia  -- 65 mph.  And I had with me my then-wife, a very fine Scottish woman aptly named "Joy"

A CHP patrol detected me and pulled me over.  The trooper approached me very cautiously, sticking close to the side of the Pinto and standing behind me instead of beside me.  He was obviously very tense.  But when he found that I was unaggressive and perfectly civil to him, he untensed rapidly.  The fact that I speak with an accent that Americans usually perceive as British may also have helped.  It helped explain my unawareness of California rules.  (For the phoneticans, my accent is Educated Australian).  We had a perfectly genial conversation at the end of which he waved me on my way without even giving me a ticket.

White privilege?  Not exactly.  Because something similar happened recently to me where I live in Brisbane, Australia -- a place where blacks are too few to influence policy.

I was approached by a Queensland cop when I had unwittingly made an illegal turn.  And Queensland cops are not exactly fragrant.  There are many bad apples among them.  Even the police Commissioner was sent to jail for corruption not long ago.

So the cop was initially brusque and supercilious with me.  When I showed that I was listening to him carefully by asking him to repeat something I had not understood, however, he became much more relaxed and we had a fairly genial conversation.  He saw it as his duty to give me a ticket but we ended up with him wishing me a Merry Christmas and pausing other traffic to facilitate my driving off.  Once again a civil and co-operative approach from me got exactly the same back.

These are only anecdotes but I think they feed into a general perception of what might have saved the lives of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.  There is an old saying that people are a mirror of ourselves.  There is a lot of truth in it.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Another visit to Sunny Doll

I thought it would be a good idea to introduce Suz, Russ and kids to Sunny Doll so I shouted them a dinner there tonight.  Suz, Joe and I had Teriyaki chicken Don but it is a smallish meal so I recommended the Japanese curry to Russ:  A big meal for a big man. For the kids I ordered Karaage (fried) chicken.  Everybody was of course impressed with the food, Russ particularly, I think.  Suz told me that she mostly cooks "meat and 3 veg" for dinner so the Japanese food would be a big contrast for Russ.  He tried a bit of the dinners that Suz and the kids had and liked them all.

The kids were wound up to have Joe present as he always plays with them.  I even played "get that tongue" with Sahara, which I also used to play with her mother long ago.

After the dinner Russ shouted us some Italian hot chocolate that the restaurant have recently added to their menu.  It was VERY thick.  Von would have loved it.  While we were drinking, the kids ran all around the restaurant in typical kiddy style.  Lucky there were no other diners present at that stage.

Dusty looked cute in his brown overalls

Monday, December 1, 2014

A rare birthday success

I am a brilliant buyer of birthday and Christmas presents -- if I get Jenny to select and buy the presents on my behalf.  I just give her a vague budget and she makes excellent choices.  All I do is pay the resultant credit card bill.  As Jenny enjoys shopping, that arrangement has continued for many years -- to the satisfaction of both of us -- and to the satisfaction of those who get the presents.  Jenny's recent selection of a kiddy cosmetics set for Sahara is a case in point.  It was a hit with Sahara.

On rare occasions, however, I do get a present idea that works well.  The time I gave Ken and the kids half a ream of A4 paper for Christmas was memorable, as was the time I gave Nanna a particular computer joystick she wanted as a 70th birthday prersent.  And I think a glass frog that I once  gave Anne went down well.  She likes frogs but doesn't like things to hop or scuttle.  A glass frog therefore seems just right.

And I think that one of my recent ideas has to be in the "rare success" category.  About 6 months ago I was walking through Woolworths and saw a bachelor's frypan -- a one-egg frypan -- for sale.  It looked rather cute so I bought it and later gave it to Von to be kept for Hannah's birthday.  The pictures below tell a graphic story, I think.

Von emailed me as follows:  "Hannah loved her little frypan you gave her for her birthday.  I have attached photos of her unwrapping her gift. Thanks again, it was very thoughtful as she really loves cooking"

A girl who loves cooking will go far.

I see that Hannah got a train set too. Both she and Sahara are very keen on trains -- largely because of Thomas the Tank Engine, I suspect

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A hailstorm and a birthday

On Thursday (27th) evening, starting about 5pm we had the mother and father of a hailstorm with quite a lot of the hail being bigger than golfballs -- all accompanied by cyclonic winds that blew the hail in a horizontal direction a lot of the time. I was blogging at the time but was aroused to my surroundings by the loud bangs of the hail hitting my house. We lost power after a few minutes. Brisbane is a big town, however, so only a narrow corridor was affected but the Gabba was in that corridor.

Joe had his friends Eugene and Kristian over playing computer games but we were soon all watching the live spectacle of the storm.  The storm was in fact the most ferocious hailstorm I have  ever seen so I remarked at one point that it must all be due to global warming -- and I am pleased to say that everyone laughed at that.  Global warming has become a joke.

Most houses in the area seemed to have at least some broken window glass and some cars had  multiple holes in their back window glass.  Joe had his windscreen hit and was left with a crack in it.  As the windscreen is a laminated one, however, that did not limit operation of the car.  Quite a few cars in the area had extensive hail denting in them but both Joe and I escaped that somehow.

We lost power until about 10pm and internet until about 5pm the next day.  We went out in search of food at about 5.15pm in Joe's car but the traffic jams were horrendous with the traffic lights out.  We ended up at the Sunny Doll restaurant in the hope that they might be able to feed us from their gas stoves but they said they needed electricity to see what they were doing.  So we went into Woolworths (which has backup power) and bought a roast chicken, bread rolls etc and took it back to our place and ate it on my verandah under candlelight.  I even managed to make tea using the gas stove.  It was all rather fun.  Part of the roof came off however so my kitchen had a waterfall in it for a long time.

Dudley came over and fixed the roof the very next day and luckily I also had Jeff booked for that day so he took care of the broken windows.

And today, Saturday, we had a lunchtime party at Suz and Russ's place for Saharah's 5th birthday. I bought her a pack of 6 toy trains with confectionery in them so that suited a train-loving girl.  The big hit was however a little girl's cosmetic set that Jenny bought for her on my behalf.  Saharah LOVES cosmetics: A complete girly girl.

Joe bought Kate along to the party and she said she enjoyed it.  I talked mostly with Jenny.  Russ cooked some excellent sausages on his BBQ and I had 3 of them.  It was my "free" day however so my diet was not compromised.  Joe drove us there and back, which I was pleased about.  I don't like driving these days

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Weather report

Some people reading here may just possibly be aware that Brisbane had a major storm this afternoon which produced quite a lot of flooding in some parts of the city.  Where I am at Buranda is fairly elevated, however, so we had no flood grief at all.  My son and I simply drove to our usual local Japanese restaurant (Sunny Doll) for our supper and got marvellous food as usual. There are some brilliant Chinese, Thai and Indian cooks but Japanese cooks are the best.  They know about umami.

At the Sunny Doll, Joe always orders Jasmine tea to go with his meal.  You might think you know all about that but you would be TOTALLY wrong. Japanese Jamine tea is not remotely like Chinese Jasmine tea. It tastes rather odd to me but it is MILKY -- and Joe is a milk freak.  He also always orders Lassi at Indian restaurants.  Milk is his addiction -- for which I am profoundly grateful -- considering all the other foul things that young people get addicted to these days.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A final visit from Von & Co. before their departure

They came over at 2pm for afternoon tea.  It was a pretty hot day so we met in Joe's room, as he has the best air-conditioning.  Joe even tidied up his room in advance!

I had some Japanese curry products ("Golden" curry sauce and "Vermont" curry sauce) to give Von & Simon just by way of introducing them to Japanese curry.  They can probably get the stuff in NZ if they know what to look for.  I also gave Simon a bottle of ready-made Teriyaki sauce, which he looked at with great interest.

On her visits to my place Von has on a couple of occasions said how much she likes my tea.  It is Tetley tea, an English brand.  I have a big box of it so I gave her a small pile of it to take home.

Von gave me a packet of a Pakistani curry sauce which they like.  Simon makes mutton curry with it.  It is Achar Gosht Masala and Von says it is their favourite curry.  Apparently I can just toss it into my crockpot with a few other ingredients and that is all there is to cooking it.  Hopefully, I can find some mutton to try it with.  Anne is very keen on mutton so she might be able to track some down.

Joe spent a lot of time playing with Hannah, which she greatly enjoyed.  He plays the sort of impromptu games I played with the earlier generation and he is very popular with the littlies because of it.  He really livened her up but she wore out after a while.  That was a bit of a surprise as in my day I always wore out before the kids did.

An amusing thing was Von on chocolate drinks.  She thinks that things like Milo are too weak.  She goes for the original cocoa, which she can put in large quantities into a drink.  She likes dark chocolate (as I do) so she likes her drinks dark too.

Von is an amazing sentimentalist. Paul and I are great sentimentalists but Von leaves us both in the dust.  She has mementoes of almost all of her past  -- starting from when she was a little girl.  So it was amusing that she remembered my writing desk -- which I still have -- from way back.  She was pleased to see it again.

One of the curries

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Back to the Bollywood

I put on a sendoff dinner, starting at 6pm,  for Von & Co. -- as they fly out early next week.  There were 9 or 10 of us there plus kids.  Sahara was looking very pretty in a mainly green sundress.  Suz has got a real girly girl there.  The dress went well with her blue eyes, blonde hair and very white skin, in my opinion.  Von was wearing one of her long full skirts, which is what suits her best in my opinion.

The story of my fountain pen got a re-run to considerable hilarity. I mentioned that Simon couldn't work it out until he read the instructions and he said "I hate instructions".  I agreed with him .  Men don't read instructions unless they are desperate.  It is against our religion.

Von was very lively and kept us interested with her various comments.  She has become as good a talker as Paul -- but not as  loud.  She speaks in quite a soft contralto voice, like the lady she is.  She spent a lot of time trying to convince George that he needed to take a holiday in NZ.  But George, like me, is off holidays these days.  Building things is George's holiday.

I had always been a bit concerned about Dusty's good nature,  I thought people might use it to push him around.  But I saw that my fears were unfounded.  At one stage Russ suggested something to him that he disagreed with -- which he responded to with a loud "No" and a big frown.  Russ was thrown back by it.  So I was delighted to see that.

Hannah was mostly minded by Simon while Von talked to us all. Davey was there but without Anna-Marie.  For once the kids didn't run around the restaurant like mad things, partly due to Matthew not being there, I think.  I rather like to see them running around as it means they are having fun.  And the Bollywood rarely has other customers.  Their trade is mostly takeaway.

The food was good as usual.  George and I had Tandoori chicken, Suz had a peanut curry and Anne had Moglai lamb.

Friday, November 14, 2014

With Von & Co at the Sunny Doll

I was keen to introduce Von to the Sunny Doll as it is by far my favourite restaurant these days.  It is Japanese food cooked by very polite Japanese people and the Teriyaki Chicken Don really is magic.  Von departs very soon so we had to squeeze it in whenever we could.

Hannah was in a really "High" mood, full of smiles and chatter. And she got through an entree serve of Karaage (fried) chicken with no trouble. She is a great little kid and good-looking like her mother.

As expected, we all enjoyed our dinner and went back to my place for tea and bikkies afterwards.  On sorting out my desk drawers recently, I discovered that I am the owner  of about 30 pencils and 7 pencil sharpeners.  I have no idea how I acquired any of them but there they are.

So when Von suggested that I find Hannah something to draw with I was able to provide a selection of pencils, which Hannah enjoyed using, though she can't really draw as yet.  I never use pencils myself.  I think some tenant or tenants must have left them behind.  Von said they are a good resource for whenever I have littlies visiting.

I drove us all to and from the restaurant in the Starlet, which I enjoyed.  It really is a great little car, but a bit noisy in its old age.

Teriyaki chicken don

Karaage chicken

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Morning tea with Von

Von & Co came over to my place about 11 for morning tea.  Now that their house is under contract they have a lot more time to spare.

I had two puzzles for Simon:  A strange gadget that seemed to have something to do with opening bottles and cans but nobody so far has been able to guess exactly what.  Simon was stumped too.

A much more interesting puzzle was a Parker fountain pen that George gave me a couple of birthdays ago.  It was one of those "some assembly required" gadgets and I could never figure out how to assemble it.  I gave the job to Simon on the grounds that he is very clever technically.  But it nearly stumped him too. He actually had to read the instructions! And even then it took him a while.  I now intend to use the pen to sign cheques.

At one stage Hannah slipped off her seat and hurt herself slightly -- making her cry.  We were at the time however opening the box of  choc-chip cookies that I customarily provide for morning and afternoon teas.  So Von said to Hannah:  "Want a biscuit?"  And as soon as Hannah saw the cookie, she stopped crying and gave a big smile instead.  She likes her food.

It was a very pleasant morning tea.

UPDATE:  I think Von does not like to be beaten.  When she got home she hit Google hard until she found the source of my little mystery gadget.  See the illustration she found below.  The bottom part of it is obviously a bottle opener for crown-sealed bottles but the top protrusion was the mystery.  The accompanying text  said that the gadget is used to open bottles AND cans.  So it must be to help lift up the ring on a ringpull can.  I would have thought that fingernails could do that but maybe ladies with long nails might prefer to use a tool.

Another "3 sisters" lunch

November/December is of course party season as everybody gets into the mood for Christmas.  And I seem to be in the middle of that.  Anne and her sisters put on a lunch today in honour of their parents' wedding anniversary. Anne put out cold meats and salad and the other ladies brought along stuff too, so there was plenty of good nosh.

Ralph looked pretty glum when I arrived but, after  a while,  all the jolly chatter livened him up so much that he even gave us a jokey riddle to solve.  None of us could do it.  But the answer was amusing.

There were profiteroles for dessert and there were two left over when everybody had had one so Ralph and I declared male privilege and polished them off.

There was much talk of clocks as Anne had just that morning got the family mantelpiece clock back from the repairman. I was rather horrified that Anne has got the repairman to silence its "dong".  It is an hourly chiming clock but Anne says that its "dong" is horrible.  I lived happily with Westminster chimes for many years -- which mark not only the hour but also every quarter hour -- so I was unsympathetic.

There were of course various discussions about food and I mentioned that dripping is back in vogue.  Leading chefs are using it again with their roasts, fish'n chips and even in cakes and lasagne.  That was received with great interest and comment as we had all grown up on dripping cookery -- before the great oil  takeover some decades back.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Friday dinner at Ken's

Von is houseminding at Ken's place while he is away on another cruise.  She wanted to put on a "Thank You" dinner for Jenny and me so she had it at Ken's place.  It was so many years since I had been there that I was not at all sure I remembered how to get there.  In the event, however, I managed. I drove Anne's car in case I needed a SatNav to help.  Her new Corolla has got all the bells and whistles.  Anne drove us home with a few directions from me.

Simon made us an excellent curry and there was icecream afterwards.  The curry was originally intended as a mutton curry but Simon could not find any butcher here that sold mutton.  The dreaded fashion again, I suppose. So Simon made it with beef, which was not as good, he said.  I believe him. Mutton is quite strong-tasting so would go well in a curry.

I teased Von a bit about slaughtering Rosemary  -- her original pet lamb which very rapidly turned into a large sheep.  But she assured me that Rosemary was "safe".  There was some conversation for a while about the characteristics of the various  sheep in Von's small flock.  Lambs keep popping out so Von has trouble keeping the numbers in her flock down.  All very New Zealand, of course.  Von and Simon sometimes get a slaughtered full sheep from locals as a thankyou for something or other, so they always have mutton on hand in their freezer.  It's sheep country where they are.

When the desserts were being considered, I made the observation that even if your main tummy is full, your dessert tummy still always had room.  That amused everyone but they all hastened to agree.

I took along a bottle of Alsatian wine, which everyone spoke well of.  Nanna abstained so the remaining 5 adults got a small glass each.  there was no other alcohol.

Hannah plowed into her curry like the Johnson she is.  After the meal she brought out a "Thomas the Tank Engine" toy from Ken's toy room and played with it for a while.  It was a rather clever gadget.  Ken's toy room is full of toys to cope with visiting grandchildren.

Von wore her LBD ("Little Black Dress") but I would have preferred her to wear the long full skirts she usually wears.  I think she looks very feminine in them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Joe and I watched the Melbourne Cup on TV

There were two great races on at Flemington. And the horse race was a nail-biter as usual:  Another amazing finish, marred only by the fact that two of the runners had to be put down after the race.  A truly sad aftermath.  I had 4 horses in various sweeps and none of them got anywhere!

I always take an interest in the other major contest of the day:  The fashions on the field.  I know nothing about fashion and for 364 days of the year take no interest in it -- but I figure I can once a year try to inform myself about it.  And what I thought I knew was turned upside down yesterday.  I thought the winning fashions were bound to be pretty sober and wearable anywhere.  That's not what happened.  I couldn't get past the winner's aluminium hat!

Anyway, some pix from the great day:

Christine Spielman in her aluminium hat

The dress was OK but are those leather gloves?

The winner with the runners up

Megan Gale let colour do the talking

And the anti-skin rules were not always enforced


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Another High Tea

I put on a high tea at 4pm today to give people another chance to chat to Von while she is over here from NZ.  There were about 10 adults present plus kids.  Von came over a half an hour early to make the cucumber sandwiches.  I had the cucumber sliced and  soaking in white vinegar and all the rest of what was needed laid out for her.

I provided some good lamingtons, some cupcakes, some chocolate mini-croissants and NZ Afghan biscuits and the ladies all brought stuff as well so there was plenty to eat and a fair bit left over.  Simon made his NZ dip which was yummy.

I noticed that Von and Tracy had a good chat but Von spoke to most of us at some time.  It was a pleasure to see her and twinny Suzy with their beautiful blue-eyed children.  Sahara and Dusty got into the cakes and biscuits as they are given little of that at home.  Suz said that they associate my place and family occasions generally with yummy food.
Jenny made the tea and organized various things, including the washing up -- which was most appreciated.  Nanna also came along, which was good to see at her age. She told me I was young!

Joe brought along his friend Eugene and had his usual play with the littlies. He even played cars with them for a while. They like Joe because of that. Joe said the Tea was "fun"

An interesting thing to see resulted from Von bringing along a box of toy cars from Ken's place, where she is staying.  Ken is off on another cruise.  Dusty, as expected, got into playing with the cars but the two girls did likewise.  Car mad girls!

If there had been any feminists present, they would have thought that Von is a feminist.  In fact she took a wrong turn altogether from a feminist viewpoint.  She was in a high-earning job and had that "career" that feminists idealize for some strange reason.  So what did she do?  She chucked it in and moved to a quiet country town in New Zealand to live as a housewife, enjoy her little daughter growing up and grow her own vegetables.  She in fact lives a life that really is idyllic and she greatly enjoys it.  A wise woman.  She was even wise enough to get a husband who cooks!

I introduced a couple of the blokes to Clayton's ("The drink you have when you're not having a drink").  You see and hear very little of it these days and in NZ you can no longer buy it at all.  I really like it however.  And it is low calorie so it suits my diet.  I drink heaps of it.

Tracy approved of my putting on a High Tea at the "correct" English time of 4pm.  Australian afternoon teas are mostly at 3pm or thereabouts.  The occasion was only partly English, however, for various reasons -- one of them being that I greeted my guests wearing not a shirt but an Australian worker's blue singlet.  It was a hot day.  But if I had worn that in England, everyone would have been deeply puzzled, no matter how hot it was.  And while lamingtons are an essential at a good Australian afternoon tea, that is not so in England.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Dosas and an old letter

I put on a small dosa lunch mainly just for Von & Co. but I also invited Anne, Jenny and Joe.  Since Von is not always here in Brisbane, I like to see a lot of her and Hannah when they are here.

We had a good dosa lunch as usual and we all admired Hannah.  She speaks in intelligible sentences now and always looks beautiful, of course.  Young though she is, Hannah is an old hand at eating dosas, and having a Johnson appetite, she gets through them well.  At one point the proprietor was obviously a bit concrned about her eating a dosa and came over and asked her if she liked it.  She turned to him with a mouth stuffed full of dosa so that was an eloquent reply.

Joe joined in the conversation very well, which he does not always do. Like me, I think he prefers small gatherings. 

We talked a fair bit about old times but Von trumped all that by producing a letter I had sent her when she was a little girl.  Von is a great sentimentalist and likes to hang on to her past so she has a little treasure chest of mementoes of things in her past life, including two letters from me.  We have already seen one of those but she has now found another one.  I reproduce it below.  As you'll see, I used the pet names we had for one-another.

After lunch we repaired to my place for tea.  Except that most of us did not have tea.  I persuaded Von to see what she could do with my packet of Orzo -- an Italian coffee substitute.  Von was the only one who liked it so I gave her the rest of the packet.  I tipped my cupfull out.  Again we mostly talked about old times, including Sarah Ferrett.  I liked bold little Sarah but the twins have lost touch with her.

Another thing we discussed was the problems Von & Simon are having with renovating their Brisbane property.  The tenants left it in a mess and they are now trying to repair the damage and bring it up to a saleable standard.  Before I could say much, Jenny piped up with some very good advice:  Get it up to respectability but don't spend too much on that as the new owners may want to re-do the kitchen etc anyway.  I would have said much the same and Jenny has lived through a number of my renovation projects so she has obviously drawn her own conclusions.

Von also presented me with a selection of NZ groceries, mostly things she knew that I liked already.  I am greatly looking forward to eating them in due course

Simon was our source of wisdom on culinary matters.  As well as being a computer whiz he also does most of the cooking at their place.  He is thinking of making his own dosas.  I wish him luck with that!

Sociology, University of NSW P.O. Box 1, Kensington, 2033, NSW

29 March '90 

Dear Lady Von, 

Thank you for your nice letter. By the way, there is no such word as "dubble". It is "double". 

I was pleased to hear that you have been having fun with Nanna on the weekends. Nanna knows lots of good things for girls. 

Are you looking forward to going up to Cairns at Easter? I seem to remember that neither you nor Suzy like very long car rides. If you do not want to go to Cairns, I am sure that Nanna would let you stay with her instead at our pink house if you wanted to. 

Jenny and I have a very pretty house in Sydney. It has big rooms like our Faversham St house used to have and there are lots of trees in the street outside. I even have a very pretty fireplace in my room so I will be able to light a fire and keep warm in winter. 

I now go to work every day. Do you know what I do at work? I write things. I spend nearly all the time writing. But I still have time to write to a special girl like you. 

I hope to be back in Brisbane for a little while around the time of the July school holidays. 

Joey can repeat almost anything that people say now and he seems to understand almost everything. He still pronounces a lot of words in funny ways, however. Jenny used to call him "honey bun" and he thought she was saying "honey bum". 



The other letter Von found among her treasures is here

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A dinner for our visitors

Von & Co. arrived from NZ last Friday so I put on a Bollywood dinner for them on Sunday (19th).

There were 10 people present  -- a bit down owing to some people being overseas etc.  I took host's privilege and sat next to Von so I could listen to her lively commentary about all sorts of things.

Ken mostly talked to George and Anne mostly talked to Jenny, Maureen and Davey.  Hannah stuck pretty close to her mother for most of the evening but Joe got a cuddle as we left.

Joe is popular with the kids as he plays fairly boisterously with them  -- just as I did with the previous generation.  Kids love something a bit daring or risky but that does put a responsibility on the adult to make sure that they don't get hurt.  I always managed that and Joe does as well.

The food was good as usual and at Joe's suggestion I had Tandoori chicken.  That kept me within the guidelines for my diet, making it a fairly yummy diet.  The diet is based on Joe's theories with an emphasis on low carbs and low fats and it does work for me.  I've lost .3 of a kilo in just the last few days.

It was a pleasant evening with lots of lively conversation.  As usual it was not a bibulous night.  I always supply toasting champagne but only two bottles of it were drunk among the 10 of us.  We need neither booze nor music to enjoy a social occasion. We talk.

Friday, October 3, 2014

A final sendoff

Paul and Susan have been going around saying farewell to various people individually and they came to see me late this afternoon.

I got three "Supreme" pizzas home delivered from Pizza Hut and also had a packet of New Zealand ginger nut biscuits on hand. Everything got eaten, with even little Elise tucking into pizza. I don't think she has got any teeth yet but she gummed it pretty well! I don't like Australian ginger nuts much but the NZ ones were definitely better.

We talked a lot about politics, as we usually do.  Someone had been poisoning Paul's mind about Sir Johannes Bjelke Petersen  KCMG, who ran Queensland  from 1968 to 1987.  "Joh" was always controversial and all these years later he still is.  Much that was and is said about him is distortion, however.  As a member of Joh's party at the time, however, I am in a good position to balance the account, which I did.  The half-truth about Joh holding power only because of a gerrymander is particularly pernicious.  Yet in In 1974, his government gained a remarkable 59% of the popular vote  --  a majority so large as to be almost unheard of in a Western democracy. Only Ronald Reagan has done as well, as far as I know. Interesting that both Ronnie and Joh were known for crushing arrogant unionists

So how come?  The fact of the matter is that some rural seats in Queensland were much less populous than most urban seats.  They did however cover large geographical areas so the difficulty of getting around them was put forward as the reason for their being less populous. But that gerrymander did not originate with Joh.  It went back at least to the premiership of Vince Gair and may have even gone back as far as Ned Hanlon. Gair and Hanlon were Labor Party premiers.

So why did the Labor Party favour country seats?  Because they used to win most of those seats.  With the Country party revival first under "Honest Frank" Nicklin and then Joh, however, almost all those seats swung to the conservatives.  And since the Country party and the urban-based Liberal party always governed in coalition, the end result is that Joh's government always got a majority of the popular vote.  Joh himself put it well when he was addressing a meeting of students at Sydney university.  He asked them:  "Do you think a party that gained only 45% of the vote at the last election should rule Queensland?"  Resounding "Noes" were heard in reply.  Joh then said:  "Well, that's what the Labor party got last time". Embarrassment!  The gerrymander disadvantaged the Liberal party, not the Labor party.

Much more could and has been said about Joh -- his "inarticulateness", for instance.  But I have written on that before

Paul and I talked about other things as well -- deficiencies in the school curricula, why Ken and Paul disagree, the nature of Leftism -- but nothing that we haven't gone over many times before.

Cuddling little Elise -- tummy to tummy!

UPDATE: "Joh" made me proud to be a Queenslander. And even subsequent Labor Party governments have done little to erase his legacy (though the mismanagement of his big Wivenhoe flood-control dam is a disgrace). So maybe I should say more about something else that he is known for: He crushed the electricity workers union. They really thought that they ruled the roost until Joh showed them otherwise. They were a plague on Brisbane people with their cutting off of the electricity supply in support of their egregious demands.

But it could be argued that Joh's response was neither Left nor Right but Queensland. In the 40s there was a Labor party Premier of Qld called Ned Hanlon. In his youth he was a real red-ragger. But as he got older he went "so far right that he was almost out of sight" -- as they used to say of Syngman Rhee (you don't know who Rhee was? Look him up). So Ned used his police to break up strikes. Joh was milder. He just used threats. But the unionists were just blustering cowards so the threats worked.

Queensland electricity supply is very good these days. No more do people have to throw out the contents of their fridges and freezers.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Getting your tax return done is not a minor event in anyone's life.  It is a major headache.  So I was most pleased to get my tax done today.

I went to a very knowledgeable lady named Janet Ortiz at my local ITP branch at Stone's Corner, 5 minutes drive from where I live.  She even told me where to park my car!

I know it is completely irrelevant but she had the olive skin one would expect of a person of Spanish ancestry  -- not like the awful whiteness of Poles or the Irish -- or the golden brown of the Norwegians and the Swedes.

Like most Australians, both Jenny and I have substantial Irish ancestry so it was no mystery how Joe would end up.  When he was a toddler I used to call him "the white boy" as his skin was just about as white as a sheet of white paper.  And now in adulthood he simply goes red if he gets much sun -- as my father did.  Though my father was a redhead.  But Joe has a red beard so it all fits.  Because Jenny's grandfather was a redhead we had great hopes that Joe would be a redhead but a "bluebeard" is certainly a good alternative.

Anyway Janet sat me down for one and a half hours and turned my heap of paperwork into a proper return  -- and even told me what  refund I would get.  And the cost --$200+ -- was worth its weight in gold to me.

In my youth I used to do lots of things myself  -- not only tax returns but simple plumbing, electrical work and even some (rough) carpentry.  But I am pleased that I can hand all those things to the experts these days.  I don't even hang my own pictures now.  Geoff has just put up a whole heap of them for me -- mostly family photos

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A sendoff and a birthday

Paul is about to go overseas to Britain for 10 months so I will not see that little family for a while.  So I put on a farewell dosa lunch for them. I also invited Paul's mother and father as they will undoubtedly miss him too.  Nanna and Maureen also came along of course.

Matthew got a whole dosa to himself and ate the lot  -- good eaters, the Johnsons.  Elise also ate up well, as usual.

After dosas we went back to my place for tea, coffee and choc chip cookies.  Between Paul and Ken the biscuits disappeared at lightning speed.

Paul is suffering from a wog at the moment and appeared very listless when he arrived at the restaurant.  After a dosa and a coffee, however, he livened up and gave Ken a hard time as usual.

We talked about travel and Paul was amazed that I had been to Thailand. I seem to be the only person I know who hasn't been away on trips lately.

Elise loved Joe's piano and had a great time thumping it.  As she is only one year old, however, her little hands could not have damaged it.  Matthew spent a lot of time with his latest toy, a foldout city.

Maureen discovered that the mulberry tree overhanging my front verandah was in fruit and managed to get quite a few berries to eat.  It's Maureen's birthday next weekend so I gave her a present of something I knew she liked -- a leather-look coffee table

One thing we spent quite a lot of time discussing was England.  Paul is off to England and Ken was born there.  In particular we discussed the class system and its effects.  Discussing social class is a rather deplored thing to do in both England and Australia but I am a retired sociologist with a couple of published research papers on the subject in the academic journals so I can say the unsayable with some justification.  It's actually within my field of professional expertise.  I amused the company by quoting George Bernard Shaw's famous saying:  "No Englishman can open his mouth without causing another Englishman to despise him"

Ken made the interesting point that class enmities have diminished in recent years with the large influx of uncongenial immigrants to England.  The English are more likely to see themselves as one by contrast with the Africans, Muslims etc who now make up a substantial fraction of the population.  Both Paul and I think that the old divisions are still influential however.

But I did comment that what Ken said was convincing in terms of what Hitler did. It was only Hitler, with the many enemies he saw, who created among Germans a sense of German identity. Up until that time Germans mostly had a mainly regional identity -- as Saxons, Rhinelanders, Bavarians etc. To quote: "Vor uns marschiert Deutschland; unter uns marschiert Deutschland; hinter uns marschiert Deutschland". That got wild applause.

We also discussed Nederland a bit as Susan is of Dutch ancestry and they plan to visit the old family stamping ground while they are abroad.  Dutch and German are quite similar languages so it amused me to translate Susan's maiden name into German: "Von der Quelle".  And it sounds almost the same too.  All Nederlanders  think they can speak German and are equally convinced that no German can speak Dutch. They think in fact that only Nederlanders can speak Dutch properly, which may be true

I know a little about  Dutch pronunciation so usually try to pronounce the surname of Vincent van Gogh in the Dutch way.  But if I do that no-one understands what I am talking about -- they probably think that I've got a sore throat.  And a Nederlander would undoubtedly say that I get it wrong anyway.  I use German gutturals (the "Ach Laut"),  which are apparently a bit different from Dutch ones.

Susan is quite rightly enthused about her Dutch heritage so she even had a wooden jigsaw puzzle of the sort you usually give to toddlers wherein the pieces were all the provinces of Nederland

Susan is even thinking  of having Elise Christened in the  hometown of her Dutch family, which would be a great affirmation of continuity (only conservatives understand the importance of that) but it is a bit regrettable after the good family time we all had in Brisbane with Matthew's Christening.

Even anti-religious Ken came along to Matthew's Christening.  In my jocular way, I asked him afterward if he had felt the power coming down as Matthew was "done" and he assured me that he had!  I probably joke too much sometimes

I mentioned the Japanese custom of omiyagi (bringing back presents from a trip) but it didn't seem to get much traction.

I asked Ken if he had managed to get along to the Philip Glass opera recently performed in Brisbane (for only the THIRD time in the world).  He replied that he did not go as he did not like opera.  I understand that to some extent as I am not big on opera (through I LOVE all the great arias from  19th century Italy  --  "O mio caro babbino" etc.) but I was surprised he did not make an exception for Philip Glass.  I wondered if he had been put off by the price.  ANYTHING at our entertainment centre seems to cost $200+ per seat.  Knowing how much he likes Philip Glass I would have shouted him a ticket if that was the problem.  He has recently spent $50,000 on a new VW, however, so that may not be the case.

It's probably evil of me but I am betting that his VW breaks down before my 2004 Toyota Echo does.  See here.  I am a great fan of Toyotas.  I own two of them and have donated one each to Jenny and Joe!

Acknowledgements!  Jenny and Susan made the teas and coffees and Maureen did the washing up.  This family is a traditional one.

Waiting for the dosas to arrive. Maureen is helping Matthew with his jigsaw of Nederland

Ken reaching for the cookies  -- and Elise eyeing them

Saying farewell. Note Susan's fashionable hemline and my St George flag

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The immerser

It was only when I was about 9 that my mother first acquired an electric jug.  Such things were not common in Innisfail at that time.  The lady down the road, Mrs Young, did however from early on have an immerser ("immersion heater") -- which is basically an electric jug without the jug.  It was just a heating element that you could attach to a power cord and immerse in a bowl of water. It would then heat the water in the bowl until you turned it off.

Horace Young and my father were in the same business -- timber getting -- so the families knew one-another but were certainly not close  -- rivals more

In those days back doors were not usually locked (only people you didn't know came to the front door) and if a neighbourhood kid walked in your open back door you would say Hello and treat the kid more or less as one of your own.  And I had been in the Young's house on a number of occasions and seen the immerser in use. I was only about 4 at the time but was fascinated by this unfamiliar gadget.

Then one day I wandered into the Young's house and found no one home.  I went straight to the immerser, put it in a bowl of water and turned it on.  I watched the little bubbles in the water for a while and then lost interest.  I wandered off leaving the immerser ON!

It must have been a pretty sturdy piece of kit because it evaporated all the water, broke the bowl and then proceeded to burn a hole in the wooden  floor.

Eventually the Youngs came home to this scene of disaster and tried to make sense of it.  Eventually someone asked me if I had been in the house and in my usual honest way I said I had.  So partly because of that honesty I was not punished for it but was taken to see the hole in the floor.  It had burnt almost through one of the floorboards.

I was too young to know of any other repercussions.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Dosas with Ken plus a Philip Glass opera

Last Sunday, I shouted Ken and Maureen a dosa lunch.  Both had been ill recently but they were in a recovered state for the lunch.  It was Ken's birthday the day before so it was in part a birthday lunch.  But it was mainly just to catch up with Ken. Ken has a most enquiring mind so is always interesting to talk to.

We talked a lot about both art and religion with the debate being over what drives both.  Along the way I mentioned that Anne had a Picasso print on her bedroom wall at my place so when we got back to my place for tea and coffee, Anne took Ken to have a look at it.  It is a line drawing of Don Quixote and is most evocatively done.  Ken was greatly impressed by it - as Anne and I are too.

I suggested that ego is the key both to artists and religion. Artists tend to think that they are special and religious people want to feel special.

Then last night Anne and I went to "The perfect American" by modern composer Philip Glass. It was a good opera, with lots going on, lots of drama and lots of dramatic music.  It even had a death scene.  So, except for Glass's unique music, it could have been a 19th century opera.  I went to it only for the music but it was a good show as well.  One's attention did not wander.

The whole point of the opera was to lampoon Walt Disney.  The intelligentsia will never forgive Disney for being anti-Communist but to my mind those who make excuses for Communism are the ethical cripples.

Disney was portrayed as a pathological egotist.  I am in no doubt that a hugely successful entrepreneur such as Disney had  to have a considerable ego but I am equally sure that a man who built up from scratch such a huge organization as the Disney organization had to be a very good people manager -- and no-one likes an egotist.  So whatever ego Disney had must have at least been kept in check most of the time.  So I very much doubt the accuracy of the Disney portrayal by Glass. But much in the opera was admittedly fictional so I suppose one should not take it as history

Another historical blooper was the portrayal of Abraham Lincoln as a champion of blacks and a believer in equality.  That is schoolboy history.  Lincoln was neither of those things.  In his famous letter to Horace Greeley Lincoln said that it was only the union he cared about, not blacks.  And after the war he wanted to send them all back to Africa, but was shot before he could implement that.  Let's have some words from the man himself, words spoken at the White House and addressed to a group of black community leaders on August 14th, 1862:

"You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side. If this be admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated. It is better for both, therefore, to be separated."

Got that?

And Glass's history is equally shaky in portraying Disney as a racist.  His biographer Neal Gabler in his 2009 book 'Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination' concludes, "Walt Disney was no racist. He never, either publicly or privately, made disparaging remarks about blacks or asserted white superiority. Like most white Americans of his generation, however, he was racially insensitive."

And in describing Disney as the perfect American, Glass was largely disparaging America as a whole -- something Leftists such as Glass generally do.  The opera has yet to be performed in America.  I predict a very mixed reception to it when it is performed in America.

Why the opera first went to Madrid, then to London and then to Brisbane I do not know.  It was a very extravagant production in Brisbane with a far larger cast than needful and a huge (4-ton!) mechanical  contraption in the roof used to change scenes etc so maybe it was that only the Brisbane arts community felt able to afford it.


Below is a picture of the front cover of the program notes for the opera.  It is supposed to be a blending of Walt's face with the face of Mickey mouse.  The effect, however, is to make Disney look insane, and certainly two-faced.  So it is all part of the demonization of him.  A most unpleasant and disturbing piece of Leftist art.

Leftists customarily envy other people's success and Disney was VERY successful, so this attempt to pull his memory down might have been expected

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My diet

As soon as he moved in to my place, Joe appointed himself as my personal trainer -- for which I am very grateful.  I had slid so far down the razor blade of life that my health and fitness might have been unrecoverable if he had left it for another 6 months.

One of the beneficial arrangements is that of a morning we now go for a walk around 2 neighbourhood blocks that includes 3 hills.  And that has definitely improved my aerobic and general fitness.  I can now get around most of the Rocklea markets on Sunday again.

But the big change is the diet that Joe has put me on.  It is a semi-paleo diet that is very low in fats.  The same diet has kept Joe's own weight under control so I adopted it with confidence.  And I seem to be losing about a kilo a week on it.  I started out at 123 kilos and am now down to 117.  A long way still to go but encouraging progress.

The food Joe has prescribed for me is however mostly very dull. Bananas and small yoghurts are fine but Joe restricts the evening meal to a breast of chicken and restricts lunch to a small tin of salmon.  So I had to find ways to cope with that.  I now have two things I do with the chicken, a chicken curry and chicken teriaki.  I am no cook but with the help of my crockpot I turn out a passable chicken curry mainly based on using a LOT of "Clive of India" curry powder.  It also has in it tomato, onion, coriander and garlic.  I have always liked curry so I can eat it frequently without bother.

I also use a shortcut with the Teriaki chicken.  I found a bottle of ready-made Teriaki sauce down at my local Korean deli so just marinate and baste the chicken in that.  Again, a passable result.

Joe's recipe for making the tinned salmon palatable is to pour low-cal mayonnaise on it.  That didn't help a lot though.  I found that mixing curry powder in with it helped a lot but I did not want to eat curry twice a day.  So I asked Joe for an alternative to the fish.  He said I could have four eggs.  That suited me.  I have always liked scrambled eggs and cooking them in the microwave only takes 2 minutes.  Eggs are very cheap too.  My 4 eggs cost me about a dollar.  So I am now an experienced scrambled egg cook and look forward to my lunch once again.

I initially let Joe cook the chicken but his cookery is VERY plain.  So it is no surprise that he appreciates my amateurish offerings

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The last days of this trip by Von and family

Von has been with us for nearly 3 weeks this time so it is sad to see her go.  She flies out to the Shaky Isles tomorrow.

On Friday she put on a dinner for me at Jenny's place with Simon cooking.  She wanted to thank me for getting her over.

Unfortunately I had a really bad wog on Wednesday and Thursday so, even though I was improved by Friday, I was still clearly infective so spared them that by staying home  -- with great regret.  I sent Joe along to take my place and since Joe is good-humored, I gather that they had a nice evening.  And no-one can beat Von's constant good cheer.

Then today, Saturday, I had already arranged, via Von, to have a last day with all the littlies together -- to be preceded by the ever-popular dosas.  So it was the biggest dosa lunch I have hosted so far.  There were the three sets of parents plus Anne, Joe and myself:  A total of 9 adults and 5 littlies.

As usual, Hannah and Matthew conferred throughout the lunch.  Both have only inchoate language skills so far but they seem to understand one-another.  I gather that it was the first time Suz and Russell had attended one of my dosa lunches and I gather that Russ found that he really liked dosas.

The restaurant was a bit slow in getting the dosas out so we were obviously a bigger party than they expected.  I should have booked and warned them.

I ordered masala dosas for all the adults as they are always a hit and the mothers ordered for their children.  I think the kids got egg dosas and onion dosas.

I had Von sitting next to me so I had the benefit of the best conversationalist present.  Even as a little girl Von was a great observer and couple that with her good native intelligence and she has lots to say that is worth saying.  She is certainly a most rewarding stepdaughter.  And her constant happy outlook is a tonic to us all.

I felt pretty well after my encounter with a cold so felt able to attend the lunch without too much fear of infecting anyone.  The original post-lunch plan was for us all to retire to my place for tea, coffee and biscuits but I thought that was a step too far in the circumstances.  So Von arranged for everyone to go over to Jenny's place instead. Regretfully, I just went home, with Anne following me shortly thereafter.

Waiting for our dosas.  Amusing that Von is the only one talking.  Anybody who knew her as a little girl would never have predicted it

Saturday, August 9, 2014

More birthdays

Paul and Susan put on a morning tea celebration for their two children,  whose birthdays are close together.  Matthew's birthday cake was in the shape of a train as he is a real devotee of toy trains.  Via Jenny, I got him some Noddy books as a present.

Susan invited a few mothers from her playgroup so there were lots of kids running around and having a good time.  The trampoline was popular but despite having a safety fence around it there were  still a couple of falls and tears.  Von asked Hannah if she wanted to go on the trampoline but Hannah replied: "No.  Someone might hurt me".  An early display of wisdom.  Von had dressed Hannah in gold sandals, which suited the little lady that Hannah is

There were many good things to eat set out but the plate of sandwiches was an early casualty.  Being the perfect hostess, however, Susan promptly replaced it with another plate of sandwiches.

Susan seems to be mistress of all the domestic arts.  She showed a skill with a very 21st century such art by making "hats" for the kids out of long twistable balloons.  Even Susan's mother ended up wearing an elaborate such "hat".

I had a chat to Paul about his business plans but he is very much in limbo at the moment.  I talked quite a bit to Von and also to Jenny.

Little Elise slept for much of the time,  which was a bit of a surprise to Susan as Elise is not normally a good sleeper.  Elise has however taken to her grandfather Mark as she was a little lamb while Mark was holding her.

I had a little laugh with Von over the fact that Simon does all their cooking. I mentioned to her that Simon said once to me that he couldn't cook at all until he found out that Von could cook only noodles. Simon was sitting beside me at the time so that got a rare smile from him. And Von was amused too. She said that on one occasion she cooked them one of those bottled "Chicken Tonight" offerings. And it was so bad that from that point on Simon took over. Von does a lot of work in their vegetable garden, however, so she puts food on their table that way.

Despite his dour exterior, Simon is quite a bright spark, particularly in technical matters. I gather that he is well appreciated in his NZ town as he fixes all their computer problems for a small sum. Most people need someone who can do that. And when Paul and Timmy were trying to put the tent up in the backyard today, Simon stepped in and in a few deft moves made it all happen.

Von has undergone a quite surprising change since her childhood. When she was a little girl, either her (fraternal) twin sister Suz or I would usually speak for her. I would often answer a question addressed to her and she would usually indicate in some way that she liked that reply. So one would have thought that she would have married another highly verbal person. But she did the exact opposite. She married a man silent enough to be a Karellian. So she now does all the talking for both of them and does a very good job of it. You can never tell how children will end up. You can only enjoy them while you have them.

Hannah and Matthew opening presents

The birthday cake train

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A real party

Suz and Russ put on a Saturday "afternoon tea" for us all in celebration of Nanna turning 90.  And at Nanna's request it was a real party with party games.  We first played bingo then pass the parcel then a fantasy game of Joe's devising.  And it was great fun.  It kept us thoroughly livened up.

And then there was the afternoon tea.  The ladies had gone to great trouble so there was an amazing array of tempting food on display.  I have been rather sandwich deprived lately so I got into some excellent sandwiches. But there were all sorts of cakey things too.

Then there was the photography.  Susan lined us all up and took lots of photos.  She really worked hard at it.  There should be some below shortly.

Paul had arrived back from England just that morning so was less active than usual.  Initially he just sat there on a settee with his little daughter blinking happily on his lap, a picture of contentment.  She will turn one soon.  His trip to England to investigate the possibility of living there has left him very disillusioned. He encountered too many of what the English call "chavs".  He thinks that England's chavs are worse than our "Yobbos".

Joe and I sat together for much of the time so we were each able to observe the other violating all principles of our diet.

The gang

The festive board

Matthew and Hannah

With the son

Friday, August 1, 2014


Von noticed that I was missing my sausages on Wednesday so arranged a BBQ sausage lunch for me today -- with Simon doing the cooking at Jenny's place.  Friday is my non-diet day.  Nanna joined us eating some leftover spaghetti.  Neither of the Susans could join us but Matthew and Elise were dropped off so we had children to amuse us.

Von also used the occasion to give me a swag of NZ groceries she had brought over for me.  You would think that Australia and NZ would have the same grocery brands but a lot of NZ groceries are quite different.  One thing she gave be was a bottle of L&P -- a lemony NZ softdrink  -- and it was really good.  I drank half of it on the spot. Joe had some when he was over there and he liked it too.  Von also got me a couple off bottles of green tomato chutney, which I particularly like.

The sausages were good and Von kept me interested with comments about food and about NZ.  She is as slim as a rake and eats enough to feed two so she is a wonder.  She also seems to be in very good health.  She attributes her slimness to being constantly active,  mainly with gardening.  Their garden feeds them  all the vegetables they use.

Von  was a corporate high flier on a large salary who could afford anything that she wanted once but she had the wisdom to retire not long after she turned 30 and move to her idyll in NZ.  Even as a little girl she was always wise.

And with a beautiful little daughter that she always has time for  plus a devoted husband who does all the cooking and who has been able to set up a successful business in a small NZ town plus a garden that delivers the freshest produce without great effort plus her husband's parents who live next door who are always glad to help in all sorts of ways, she has got it made.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The visitors arrive

Von and family arrived from the shaky isles last night: A family reunion that we were all looking forward to.  It was particularly good because Joe was also with us this time. Paul was in England, though.  Paul does a great job of livening up our family gatherings with his constant flow of extraversion and out-loud thinking so I have sometimes wondered how we would go without Paul.  But we did fine.  The chats flowed constantly.   There are some pretty verbal ladies among us -- including Von.  Von was really quiet as a little girl but she is as talkative as her mother these days.  She has interesting things to say too.

So we had a BBQ lunch today put on by Jenny, using her new bells-and-whistles BBQ.  Not so long ago a BBQ was a sheet of steel over a fire but these days it is an outdoors gas stove.  And Jenny cooked barramundi for us all on it.  So we now know that the BBQ can cook fish too.

Big Susan was there with her two but little Susan was at work so could not join us.  Anne had a class at that time so could not come.  Nanna was there  -- our own nonagenerian and with all her wits still about her.

We talked a lot about NZ and Von's life there but in the absence of Paul I don't think we said much about politics.  I mostly listened.  One great topic however was my diet and Joe's role as a hard taskmaster.  That did evoke some amusement.  Everybody was however impressed to hear that the weight is already coming off and that my fitness has noticeably improved.  Joe has appointed himself as my personal trainer and I really need that. I had got to the point where I could only just get up my front stairs. Everybody was amused to hear that instead of my usual sausage and egg breakfasts, I now have only all-Bran.

The kids were amusing as usual.  Matthew sat next to me at one stage and I gave him a heavily buttered bread roll to eat, which he really got into.  The boy likes butter.  Hannah just lounged around mostly, looking like a perfect languid lady.  Her mother was a born lady too.  I used to call her "Lady Von" and sometimes still do.  Von and I always got on well so that is the main reason I shout them the occasional trip across the water.  She has an ideal lifestyle in NZ but not much money.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

At Jill's

As the final episode of my birthday celebrations, Jill shouted Anne and me a lunch at her place yesterday.  She served a home-made egg and tomato pie which was very good -- plus a sort of cheesecake as a birthday cake,

Jill and Lewis told us a lot about their cruising adventures.  They go on ocean cruises quite a lot and have become very  experienced about getting good deals on such trips.

Lewis is involved with all sorts of organizations these days.  He has made a remarkable recovery from his stroke. He is having a very productive retirement.

We reminisced a bit about old times and Jill updated me about some of the people we both know.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Flame guided dinners

On Tuesday Anne put on a special dinner for me in honour of my birthday   -- for which I got out the candelabrum (a bit more elaborate than the one above), plus a few other candles.  So we had a genuine candlelit dinner.  I bought 16 lamb cutlets for the two of us so with fried onions, bread rolls etc that made a big dinner.  Anne brought along some Sydney rock oysters for starters, which were, as ever, excellent.  And we had a McGuigan red to wash it down.

And Saturday dinner was also flame illuminated.  I have a fairly wide backyard so on rare occasions I like to do something there.  And just about all I do is put on the very occasional dinner there.  I have the dinners at night under party flares.  So I do my bit towards consuming fossil fuels, as the party flares run on kerosene.

So I put on such a dinner last night in honour of Joe's birthday.  As usual, it was a pizza and champagne dinner.  That is humble fare but everybody likes pizza and I supply the champagne, a Seaview one that everybody likes.

Paul was waxing eloquent about England and how real estate is cheaper there than in Brisbane.  He was talking about the Cotswolds rather than London, however.  He likes a lot of things about England and, as a  UK citizen by descent, he is entitled to live there.  His ebullient personality is very un-English, however, so how well he would get on with the English is a bit of a question.

Paul had apparently done a Rolf Harris impersonation at a mining function recently, which was a bit close to the bone in view of Harris's recent conviction for pedophilia.  When he told us about that, Jenny was very critical, saying that he should be more careful of upsetting people, but I defended Paul, pointing out that the gathering was a conservative one and as such unlikely to be politically correct.  I have always defended Paul -- even from his own mother!

Russ and Suz brought their kids and both kids were greatly entertained by Joe -- playing games that consisted mostly of him tossing them about.  They loved it and even came back to him with demands for "More"!  It reminded me of the same demands on me by an earlier generation of kids.

We had 12 adults present, including Nanna but Timmy and Dave were missed.  No doubt they had other fish to fry on a Saturday night, being both single again.  George again lent his calm and sensible presence to our deliberations.  Russ spent a lot of time talking to Joe.

One thing that amused me was after the dinner when we had adjourned upstairs preparatory to everyone going home.  Paul discovered my biscuit barrel.  I normally set out  biscuits (cookies) for him after a dinner as he has the most incredible appetite.  So when he discovered on my kitchen bench a big bottle of fruit slices he really got into them.  He was at one stage walking around eating one slice while he had another one in his  hand. And he made a final raid on them immediately before he actually left.  They are very yummy so I don't blame him.

Fruit slice packet

The pizza was home delivered from Pizza Hut so I had very little to do.  Joe and his friend Kristian got the tables and chairs out and Jeff set up the party flares the day before.  I may be the world's laziest host but everybody must enjoy my dinners or they wouldn't keep coming.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A busy weekend

Paul came over to my place at lunchtime on Saturday to have a look at Joe's new arrangements.  Joe has moved into what was my sitting room and has crammed an amazing amount of stuff into it.  He must have done some steady accumulating during the years he was in Canberra.  In his new quarters he has his own bathroom and toilet so he has moved a step up from living in student digs.

Shortly thereafter we all went for a dosa lunch.  Anne joined us.  Dosas are always greatly appreciated.

After lunch we call came back to my place and sat around a table in my garden over cups of tea and coffee.  We had some pretty heavy discussions with my explaining Hitler's rise to power, the intrinsically authoritarian nature of Leftism, IQ differences and such things.  They had got very little enlightenment on such things from the usual sources.  The fact that Fascism was "One big happy family" socialism versus Communism's "Class war" socialism would have been completely new to them.

Then on Sunday evening we had one of our big Indian dinners at our usual place to mark my birthday.  For a variety of reasons some of the family group were unable to come but there were still 12 adults at table plus kids.  Since we all know one another well it was a very happy and convivial occasion.  George was there making his usual sterling contribution.

Paul was in high spirits and kept us all livened up.  One of the things we discussed was the poverty of a modern school education.  Paul was particularly critical of how little he had learned about history,  English history in particular. At one stage I recited a few verses of Cowper's "Boadicea" and Paul felt incensed that he had been taught so little about those events.  He had been taught Australian history almost exclusively, when the far more important history of Britain should have been outlined to him.  Anne and I assured him that it was not always so.  We in the older generation had been taught plenty of British history.  George commented that when he had studied history in Britain years ago, history had started at the beginning, with ziggurats and the like.  Paul felt mortified that he had never heard of them.

But it was a jolly meeting nonetheless.  Very little alcohol was consumed.  We were able to have fun without it and the conversation never stopped.

Joe had a good time with Dusty and Sahara, his nephew and niece.  He plays with them much as I used to do with the earlier generation of kids.  Matthew accidentally knocked a picture off the wall at one stage which embarrassed him but no harm was done.

Anne had good chats with Ken, as she often does.  They have similar interests.

I think that what I enjoyed the most about the dinner is that it was in a sense traditional.  I have been hosting dinners for family at that restaurant at least since 2006 so the tradition is not a long one  -- though it is the life of a large dog!  And I have put on dinners for various occasions -- sometimes more than once a year.  And the recent dinner felt exactly the same as all those that went before.  Some people could regard that as boring but I saw it as a pleasing affirmation of continuity.

Friday, July 4, 2014


Joe and I had a very amusing expedition to Ikea.  Joe needed a bookcase for his new quarters at my place so to Ikea we went.  And the one at Logan in ENORMOUS.  It sort of never ends.  I am convinced that without staff to call on for guidance you could die there through never being able to find your way out.

Anyway, we found the bookcases but then we had to find the way out. Joe had some ideas but we walked and walked until we found someone who gave us directions.  That happened about 3 times.  Eventually I buttonholed one of their employees and got him to guide us all the way to the checkouts.

Then we had to find the car.  Joe kindly let me sit down while he went and found it but I was ecstatic when we finally drove out of the place.

A very small thing that happened was interesting.  I have never been one to sweat the small things.  I in fact ignore small things by and large.  And it seems Joe is the same.  At one stage during our hopeless wanderings we were passing some laundry baskets  and Joe picked one up and took it with him.  He didn't say:  "I need a laundry basket", nor did I say:  "Do you need a laundry basket?"    In fact neither of us said one word about it and we still haven't!  I was proud of my boy!  I gave my credit card to buy it at the checkout but even then neither of us mentioned anything about it! Rather mad I suppose but it made sense to me.

Perhaps I should mention that when we arrived at about 6pm, we immediately queued up for one of their excellent suppers.  The Swedish meatballs plus mashed potatoes plus Lingon sylt (jam) were brilliant as usual.  I normally dislike mashed potatoes but the way Ikea did them I really enjoyed.  Mr Kamprad (owner of Ikea) is a clever cookie.  He gives you the food you need to fortify you for your expedition around his store.

Those yummy meatballs